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Arrival: Paro, drive to Thimphu
On arrival, guests will be received at the airport by TourGenie representative who will be your tour guide and companion for the whole duration of your tour in Bhutan.
Drive to Thimphu after that and check-in at your hotel, refresh yourself, have lunch and then visit the following places.
Kuensel Phodrang or the Buddha point is the world’s largest sitting Buddha statue, the statue is 167 feet high. The statue is situated on top of a hill overlooking the city of Thimphu, it can be accessed by road and is about 15 minutes away from the city’s center. The word Kuensel means everything is clear and from this place you will sure enjoy a great view of the Thimphu Valley on both sides. The statute houses a temple inside with beautifully carved out pillars, with the central figure of Chenrizig, the Buddha of Compassion. On the drive to the statue the steep winding hill road offers an unparalleled view of the city of Thimphu and is an excellent place to capture a view of the city especially after dark.
Motithang Takin preserve: The Motithang Takin Preserve also known as the Thimphu Zoo by many is a small natural preserve for the Takin Bhutan's national animal. It was originally a mini zoo, but it was converted in a preserve later on as the Takin. The preserve is a forested preserve that mimics the Takin‟s natural habitat, in addition to the Takin there are a few musk deer and barking deer that live inside the preserve. There are plans to expand the preserves collection to include other rarely seen animals that live in Bhutan, currently the preserve plans to add the Red Panda and the Himalayan Serow to the preserve.
Tashichho Dzong: The Tashichho Dzong, “Fortress of the Glorious Religion” is a Buddhist monastery cum fortress at the northern edge of Thimpu the capital city of Bhutan. The Dzong was built on the western bank of the river Wang Chu, and has historically served at the seat of the Druk Desi or the Dharma Raja of Bhutan's government. After the kings assumed power in 1907 this post was combined with that of the king and Thimphu severed as the summer caital of the kingdom before becoming the full time capital of Bhutan. The Dzong has been seat of the Royal government since 1952 and presently houses the Throne room and the Kings secretariat. The Tashichho dzong is also home to several ministries of the Bhutanese government, and the Central Monk Body which is the apex organization of the country's main spiritual order. The monument welcomes visitors during the Thimphu Tsechu festival which is held in autumn each year. The Dzongs main structure is a two striped quadrangle with 3 storied towers on each of its four corners
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Post breakfast, take packed lunch from the hotel and drive up north of Thimphu to visit the following places.
TANGO & CHARI: Drive towards north of Thimphu town. The distance is about 15kms and it’ll take about 30 minutes to reach the small narrow valley where Tango and Chari Monasteries are located. This part of Thimphu is sacred and commercial activities are not allowed. The road ends at the small valley from where the 2 hikes begin. The valley is marked by a long stupa and a traditional cantilever bridge. On the other side of the river/ stream/ creek is a new stupa which is dedicated to Phajo Drugom Zhipa and his family as they were the ones to introduce Drukpa Kagyud form of Buddhism to Bhutan which is now the State Religion of Bhutan.
You can either do both the hikes or chose one. Tango hike takes about 1.5 hours to go up and come down, the path is wide enough and is a gradual climb most of the way. Chari hike will take about 1.5-2 hours on steep and slightly narrow path.
Tango Monastery: Located north of Thimphu valley, it is about a half hour drive and about an hour long climb away. It is a 12th century monastery but the structure dates back to the 15th century. A beautiful dzong like temple that sits in the middle of tall pine trees on top of a ridge that supposedly looks like the head of a horse (Tango = Horse head). The Monastery is also the apex college for Buddhist studies. Now, since there are many students in the college, a separate structure is almost complete down in the valley to accommodate the students.
Chari Goenpa: Built in 1620's it is very close to Tango and takes about an hour and a half steep climb up to reach there. The ashes of Zhabdrung's father are preserved in the temple inside a stupa. Cheri is considered the best place to practice meditation once monks finish their higher studies at Tango (or other Buddhist colleges). Meditation would be one of the final steps towards realising one’s inner self to bring one closer to enlightenment. From the main parking down in the valley, you will see many small house near the Temple, these are houses where there are monks/ lay people meditating. Their duration can vary from a short 3 Nights/ 3 Days to the longest 3 Years, 3 Months, 3 Nights and 3 Days, depending on the level of understanding one has reached.
While coming back down, if you have time, visit Pangrizampa: This is the place Zhabdrung (unifier of Bhutan) stayed in when he first came to Bhutan from Tibet. Now it functions as the college of astrological studies for monks, it is an imposing structure in its part of the valley with an even more imposing cypress tree right beside it. Every year a great ritual is performed in this monastery for the peace and prosperity of the country and all the citizens. People from all over the country try to make it to Pangrizampa once during the week or two long ritual to place offerings and to get personal blessings from the high monks gathered there.
Come back to your hotel and rest.
Or if you have time then these are the places to visit:
Memorial Chorten: Referred to as the Memorial Chorten, its actual name is Gongzo Chorten or Gyaldren Chorten. The Chorten is a chief landmark in the Capital city and is also a most sacred place of worship for local people. The idea of the chorten was conceptualized by the Third King, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck to ward-off negative energies. After His Majesty’s demise, the chorten was built in his memory by the 4th King and the then Queen Mother in 1972. Many old people come here early in the morning to circumambulate and say their prayers in the hopes of garnering enough good karma for their afterlife; they are joined by the middle and the younger generation in the evenings who also come to do either the same thing or to just relax their mind. The doors of this stupa remain mostly closed except on holy days. Inside, there are three stories and on each floor are statues of protective deities.
Changangkha Lhakhang: It is a 12th century temple sitting on top of a hill overlooking Thimphu valley with the main statue of Chenrizig (The Buddha of Compassion). This temple is often mistaken for a dzong by visitors because it looks like one, and apart from the temple it also houses a monastic school. Most of the couples go to this temple soon after birth to get blessings for their child.
Folk Heritage Museum: The folk heritage museum was open to the general public in 2001 upon completion. It treasures troves of culture and rich Bhutanese heritage provide rich insights into the Bhutanese ethos. Try to schedule your visit during the morning hours since the museum is less crowded at that time and there is plenty of sunlight to go around. The folk heritage museum is housed in a replica traditional Bhutanese house learn first-hand about Bhutan’s rich cultural traditions, its deeply rooted heritage which spans thousands of years and the Bhutanese way of life. The tour of this almost living museum will also give you a glimpse onto how many rural folk of the country live today following the ancient Bhutanese ways.
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Thimphu – Punakha
Post breakfast drive toward Punakha, stop at Dochula Pass (3,100 m), where on a sunny day, you can get stunning views of the Himalayan ranges. The Dochu La Pass is probably the best known mountain pass in Bhutan. Located at an altitude of 3150 meter above sea level, the Dochu La Pass is about 30 kilometer away from the capital city Thimphu and the road to Punakha. On a clear day the pass offers visitors a spectacular view of the majestic eastern Himalayan Ranges.
Another striking feature at the pass are the 108 Druk Wangyal Khangzang Chortens, that were built for the well-being of all sentiment beings on earth. The 108 Chorten were built as a tribute to the Kings of Bhutan for their selfless service and leadership they offer to the people of Bhutan. These Stupas or Chortens also represent the peoples love, appreciation and loyalty towards the country’s King.
Continue drive towards Punakha and stop at Lobesa village and have lunch before going for a short hike to Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility), it is dedicated to Lam Drukpa Kuenley (Divine Mad Man) and is the place from where Phalluses originated as the symbol of fertility and protection and can be seen everywhere in Bhutan, on house walls and roofs and altars. Childless couples usually go to this temple to get blessings so that they conceive and are blessed with a child.
(NOTE: The temple and has some sexual depictions. You may want to reconsider visiting this place if you are not comfortable)
Then drive to Punakha Dzong: The Punakha Dzong or the Pungtang Dechen Phortang Dzong is located at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and the Po Chhu River, combine to form the Puna Tsang Chu. The Dzong was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1638 on the exact spot as prophesized by the Guru Rinpoche some 800 years ago. It is the second largest and the second oldest Dzong in Bhutan. The Dzong has also served as the capital Bhutan till 1955 before the capital was moved to Thimphu. The Dzong is still the winter residence of the Je Khenpo (chief abbot) and the central monastic body and plays host to the annual Punakha Tshechu Festival which is very popular with the locals and tourists alike.
Overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
Punakha – Thimphu
Post breakfast, drive to KHAMSUM YUELLEY NAMGYAL CHORTEN: A temple that stands majestically on a strategic ridge above Punakha valley. The temple was built by the Queen Mothers to ward off negative energies, promote peace, stability and harmony in a changing world after it was prophesied in the scriptures by Thragthung Dudjom Lingpa. The hike takes about 45 minutes one way through relatively easy path through paddy fields and thin pine forest. Once at the top, you can enter the stupa and climb all the way to the top for a breath taking view of the valley below.
Then trace the road back up to Dochula and then to Thimphu where you can have lunch and rest.
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu
Thimphu – Haa valley – Paro
Post breakfast drive to Haa Valley. It is small and beautiful and is said to be a Hidden Land, a valley protected and blessed by Guru Rinpochhe. This valley wasn’t open to tourists until a decade ago.
Once in Haa, you can visit the Haa Wangchuklo Dzong: Originally, Haa Dumchog Dzong stood where Wangchuklo Dzong now stands. It was built in 1895 with labor contribution from the people of Haa under the leadership of the first Haa Dungpa. It was built as part of the four defence fortresses, and by another account, to suppress the serpent deity that troubled the people of that region. Later in 1913, the Dzong was destroyed by fire and a new Dzong, which was named as Dzongsar Wangchuklo Dzong was built by Gongzin Ugyen Dorji. However, another new structure was built in 1968 under the reign of the 3rd King that currently houses the administration of the District. The Head Quarters of the Indian Army residing in Bhutan is housed in the Dzong. The inspiration for the Dzong was taken from Wangcicholing Palace in Bumthang and looks similar. Few chortens were also built to appease the serpent deities of the locality and it can still be seen nearby.
You can also visit the ancient Lhakhang Karpo (White temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black temple) a little further up, about 10 - 15 minutes hike.
Post lunch, drive towards Paro via Chelela Pass(Need to visit place)
Chelela pass, which, at 3800m, is the highest motorable paved road in the country and is about45kms from Haa and 25km from Paro town. The road up to the pass and down to Paro valley is full of switchback roads and gives you wonderfil views of especially Haa valley below. On a clear day the pass offers stunning views of Mt. Jomolhari and Mt. Jichu Drakey and if you are lucky you can even see Mt. Kanchenjunga at a distance. It’s a wonderful and relaxing drive as you climb up meandering along the slopes of the mountain. As you climb up you can see the changes in the vegetation and once on top you will have crossed the tree-line. The pass itself is marked by many fluttering prayer flags and is generally quite windy. There is a place on top of the mountain ridge that is used for ‘Sky Burial’, it is an ancient system where children’s bodies are chopped up and left on a large stone for the vultures to feed on. It considered auspicious if eaten by vultures and inauspicious if eaten by 4 legged creatures like foxes and wolves.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro
Festival at Paro Rinpung Dzong
Festival at Paro Rinpung Dzong: (‘fortress of a heap of jewels’). It was built in the mid 17th century to protect and to gain control over the region, many invasions were averted from this dzong. It now serves as seat of the Paro district administration and residence for the monastic school. Rinpung dzong like all other dzongs in Bhutan is adorned with wall murals that symbolize the lives of the Bodhisattvas and other prominent saints, drawings from Buddhist parables within which the country’s culture and traditional life is intricately represented and holy symbols that signify their own individual religious meanings. Paro Festival takes place beside the Dzong
Drive to your hotel for lunch and check-in. After lunch you can come down to the Dzong for the festival again.
Day 1 Festival program (Inside the Dzong)
Overnight at a hotel in Paro
Paro: Tsechu at the Dzong
Spend first half of the day at the festival
Day 2 Festival program (Outside the Dzong)
Post lunch, visit the following
Kyichu Lhakhang: Considered the oldest temple along with Jampa and Kenchosum Lhakhang in Bumthang, it dates back to the 7th century when a Tibetan King ordered 108 temples to be built in a single night to subdue a huge ogress. It was later renovated in the mid 19th century and in the late 1960's by the Grand Queen Mother. It is also considered by many to be one of the holiest places in the country. Inside the compound is an orange tree which always has oranges no matter what the season.
Dumtse Lhakhang: It is a private temple built by Lam Chazampa (Thangthong Gyalpo) in the 13-14 century. This is a special temple with 3 floors representing Hell, Earth and Heaven. All the paintings and artifacts in the temples are as old as the temple itself. The pillars inside were installed by the different villages in Paro valley, almost in a competition like way, even today the names villages are engraved in the pillars. Though the temple is situated very close to town, the lighting is powered by Solar power but is not lit very much as the owners fear the lights will fade the colors in the paintings, so it is essential to take a torch.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro
Paro, Tiger’s Nest hike
Have early breakfast and drive up to the base of Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest). The most famous and sacred site among all the places in Bhutan. Guru Padmasambhava is said to have come riding on a flying tigress to this place and meditated in a cave for 3 months, it wasn’t until Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal came to this place and meditated that it gained the popularity that it has now. The present structure is said to be built in the 15th century but was destroyed by fire in 1998 and has been restored.
The walk is about 2 hours till the top through wide pathways which was built during the restoration works. One hour into the climb there is a tea point from where you get a very good view of the monastery, they also serve lunch here. From there it’s about another 45 minutes climb to the 2nd view point and the highest point in the hike.
After coming back down from the hike, drive to see the Drugyal Dzong Ruins: Literally means 'Bhutan's victory fortress', it was built to in 1654 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan invaders and it would also control and guard the trade between Bhutan and Tibet as it stood right on the trade trail. It stands atop a small hill with a commanding view of the valley up and below and on a clear one can get to see the beautiful Mount Jomolhari from here. It caught fire in 1951 and has been in ruins since, some renovation works have been carried out but has not been able to go full swing. Although in ruins, the dzong is still beautiful to look at and one can just walk about inside the ruins trying to imagine how things were before.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Wake up to a relaxed morning. After breakfast, you can head to Paro airport.
We hope you take back happy memories and await your return for another exciting trip with us.